Whatever happened to the Innovation Review?

In September, as reported, Terry Cutler delivered an extensive review on the Australian innovation system and what should be done. But then, the worldwide economic downturn hit us, and nobody seems to think about creating incentives for Australian innovation any longer.

Where did it go? Nothing is happening on the innovation website.

In particular as a small business owner, I ask: what happened to incentives to innovate for SMEs? Before the review, the government as a precaution scrapped the existing Australian grant system for innovation – in particular the Commercial Ready grants. The idea was to have some leeway with building a new system. That seemed fair enough at the time – but it seems more and more that there will be no replacement for this scrapped funding. Is the government simply forgetting what they promised in view of other, more pressing needs? Do we need to remind them?

Terry Cutler in a recent interview with SmartCompany paints a dark picture for the Australian future. He is aware that commercial innovation originates from SMEs and is fearful that by dropping all support for SMEs, the whole SME technology sector will be wiped out, with a negative influence also on larger companies and Australia will fall so far behind in innovation that it may be hard to ever catch up (remember what we did with our advantage in creating computer hardware at the time of CSIRAC?).

The Commercial Ready grants and other innovation funding were abruptly scrapped in May 2008. It is now more than 6 months later and we haven’t seen an indication of anything new to replace them. In the midst of the global crisis, how can we make this important cause heard?